The Eve of Destruction

George Bush is getting four more years to remake the world in his image. (Too bad for us, he already started.)

"In the new world we have entered," it avers, "the only path to peace and security is the path of action." The manifesto takes on ominous overtones when read alongside the famous post-9-11 draft Pentagon report that establishes a royalist conception of "sweeping" executive power as the only way to keep us safe: because "national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action to characterize the presidency rather than Congress."

"Unity in Purpose, Energy in Action"—more than one commentator has noted its resemblance to slogans of fascist movements throughout history.

And of course out of fantasies of perfect control have always sprung the world's greatest human catastrophes. There will always be things even the most energetic executive cannot come even close to controlling. Conservatives used to warn us about the dangers of such utopianism—of the unintended consequences of hubristic attempts to "socially engineer" brave new worlds conjured in the heads of liberal intellectuals. Now Americans are once again learning that lesson, but the perpetrators are . . . conservatives.

And their utopia, heaven help them, is Iraq.

What comes next there? For the subject who fantasizes total control, chaos is only an injunction to more radically confident maneuvers that enlarge the struggle for control. As always, the parallel is Vietnam. "The administration's reluctance to recognize the Iraqi resistance as largely homegrown pushes it to exaggerate the role of foreign terrorists, to blame anti-American feeling on meddlers from abroad," which spells expansion of the conflict into Syria and Iran, according to Thomas Powers in The New York Review of Books. A "radical map change," he convincingly speculates, this American encirclement of the world's productive oil resources could unify all our present allies against us in a conflict that "might last fifty years."

The next four years? Anticipate another possible terrorist attack, certainly. Tommy Thompson, leaving his post as secretary of Health and Human Services, used his newfound freedom to wonder aloud why his bosses hadn't done anything to prevent an attack on "our food supply, because it's so easy to do." The EPA said an attack on any of 123 chemical plants would threaten over a million people—then the Department of Homeland Security took over the job, changed the measurements, and found that only two would do that. The chemical industry gives a hell of a lot of money to the Republicans.

Although the wholesale collapse of the American economy would be worse. Nikita Khrushchev used to call the divided city of Berlin, because of its military strategic value, "the testicles of the West," which he only need squeeze to make America scream. Now the testicles of the U.S. are the billions of dollars of American currency held in reserve by countries that do not necessarily wish us well, like China—in effect, it's the money we borrow to keep our economy afloat. China is one of those countries that would likely object to our encirclement of the world's petroleum supplies. Soon enough, China's oil demand will approach our own. If Beijing chooses to call in its loans to us and make the dollar a worthless currency, sensible folks might be looking for someone to impeach. Would Bush's kept Congress be able to do the job?

At that pass, reflects John Dean, Richard Nixon's legal counsel, who served time for Watergate, "only the attorney general can select a special counsel to prosecute." Which takes us back to the beginning, and last week's hearings. "As attorney general," Dean says, "Gonzales can resist any and all efforts to prosecute high officials of the Bush administration, absent photographs of Dick Cheney choking Condi Rice and dangling her off the Memorial Bridge for messing with his policies."

Welcome to the eve of destruction.

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